The Instituto de Artivismo Hannah Arendt (INSTAR), Cuban collective and lumbung member of documenta fifteen, is currently being affected by repressions by the regime surrounding the recent public protests in Cuba.
INSTAR’s and its founder Tania Bruguera’s risky work addresses critical cultural, social, and political issues in Cuba. The collective is committed to democracy, social justice, and the rule of law through its artistic work. The goal is “to develop a common language for freedom of expression and social responsibility. Through social cooperation, the foundation of an independent civil society is to be laid,” INSTAR says.
Regarding the current events, INSTAR states:
“On Sunday, July 11, 2021, Cuba dawned shaken by an unprecedented social outburst, which was not led by representatives of the conventional models of opposition to the dictatorial regime, but of civil citizens of the island. The word freedom was commonly demanded in the popular protest that arose spontaneously in several parts of the country, and so was a turn towards horizontal and collective leadership. Both are unimaginable for the regime, which currently tries to shift the responsibility of the protest to leaders or organizations that have traditionally measured the pulse of their anti-democratic actions.
On national television, the current president of Cuba, Miguel Díaz-Canel, sealed his authoritarian position with the phrase “The order to fight is given: to the streets, the revolutionaries”, inviting Cubans to take part in a civil war against peaceful protesters. Police repression and social anger unleashed a wave of destruction and with it arrests, crimes, and political persecution. The lists of people missing or arrested by the regime include hundreds and are updated daily. To this day the government does not recognize the arrests and has only named one fatal victim of its actions.
Among the collectives, to which the regime intends to shift the responsibility for the protests, is INSTAR, which, although it did not emerge as a political organization, has at times filled that void in a context where only one party (the Communist Party) is legal and where separation of powers does not exist.
Most of INSTAR’s members were prevented from taking to the streets to be part of the protests and have been under house arrest since, which is not an extraordinary fact, because INSTAR members have been – indistinctly – under house arrest in the last year.
INSTAR is one of the most visible targets of political persecution by the regime. Its members are constantly interrogated and/or detained by the political police, and their freedom of movement and communication is blocked (through continuous cuts of telephone connections and internet access), their families and friends are persecuted and threatened, their lives subjected to scrutiny by the official media, and their privacy repeatedly violated. Now the same is done to the population at large.
INSTAR, one of the collectives invited as lumbung members to documenta fifteen, has developed an open, collaborative, inclusive, and transparent civic practice under the adverse conditions described above. From there, it has not ceased to promote dialogue and the desire to build a democratic future for Cuba.
In light of the current situation of the people of Cuba and INSTAR, we, the INSTAR collective, condemn the government’s repression of social protest, as well as the escalation of violence against members of the Hannah Arendt Institute of Artivism and other activists and artists including Hamlet Lavastida, who is working closely with the collective. We also condemn the harassment against artist Tania Bruguera, founder of the institute, and join her demands for freedom for political prisoners and an end to the harassment and stigmatization of journalists, artists, and civil society.”